Canine mammary carcinoma is the most common cancer among female dogs and is often fatal due to the development of distant metastases. In humans, solid tumors are made up of heterogeneous cell populations, which perform different roles in the tumor economy. A small subset of tumor cells can hold or acquire stem cell characteristics, enabling them to drive tumor growth, recurrence and metastasis. In veterinary medicine, the molecular drivers of canine mammary carcinoma are as yet undefined. Here we report that putative cancer stem cells (CSCs) can be isolated form a canine mammary carcinoma cell line, REM134. We show that these cells have an increased ability to form tumorspheres, a characteristic of stem cells, and that they express embryonic stem cell markers associated with pluripotency. Moreover, canine CSCs are relatively resistant to the cytotoxic effects of common chemotherapeutic drugs and ionizing radiation, indicating that failure of clinical therapy to eradicate canine mammary cancer may be due to the survival of CSCs. The epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) has been associated with cancer invasion, metastasis, and the acquisition of stem cell characteristics. Our results show that canine CSCs predominantly express mesenchymal markers and are more invasive than parental cells, indicating that these cells have a mesenchymal phenotype. Furthermore, we show that canine mammary cancer cells can be induced to undergo EMT by TGFβ
and that these cells have an increased ability to form tumorspheres. Our findings indicate that EMT induction can enrich for cells with CSC properties, and provide further insight into canine CSC biology.